School site works well as bed and breakfast on Alps 2 Ocean trail

Craig and Blanche Sturgess outside their Enfield property, formerly Enfield School. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
Craig and Blanche Sturgess outside their Enfield property, formerly Enfield School. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
When ex-Manawatu farmers Craig and Blanche Sturgess laid their eyes on the former Enfield School site, they knew it had potential.

The couple bought the land and buildings from the Government in May 2016 and moved in shortly afterwards from Kakanui, south of Oamaru, where they had lived for about 10 years.

Before that, they lived in the Manawatu region, where they farmed sheep, beef and deer.

Enfield School opened in 1876 and was closed in 2003.

It was leased by the Brethren church until 2013, then sat empty until Mr and Mrs Sturgess were encouraged by a friend to take a look.

''They tried to sell it and they couldn't,'' Mr Sturgess said.

''We went in. Blanche and I looked at each other and thought, 'We could do something with this'.''

A year later, the former school's main building is not only the couple's home, but also provides bed and breakfast-style accommodation, under the name The Old School Enfield.

It features a large kitchen and dining area, lounge and five bedrooms, all with en suites.

Mr Sturgess said they ''kicked around other ideas'', but ultimately settled on accommodation in a perfect location for those riding the nearby Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, which passes through Enfield on its way from Mt Cook to Oamaru.

He said the couple enjoyed getting to know people, part of the reason they pressed forward with their plans.

''We enjoy meeting foreign people and people in general ... we like to hear people's stories and tell some of our own.''

The main building was in solid condition when the couple purchased it and while in the process of converting it, they decided to incorporate as many elements of the former school as they could in its design.

The look of main hallway would spark memories of schooldays for many, while photographs of the former school line its walls.

''You can't hide it's a school and we wouldn't want to, so we ran with it, really.

''We are very respectful of its history.''

Virtually all of the wood finishes were original in every room, Mr Sturgess said.

''We had to take all of the linings off basically to do the outside walls for the insulation and we had to put up fire walls between the walls, which we had to do for accommodation [regulations].''

The tongue and groove panelling was sanded, varnished and put back in to place, which Mrs Sturgess said looked ''absolutely beautiful''.

The couple received their first booking only days ago and were confident more would soon follow given the increasingly popularity of the cycle trail.

''I think we would have done this even if the Alps 2 Ocean wasn't there. If that provides us with clientele early on I would be delighted,'' Mr Sturgess said.

''We're prepared to do the pick-ups from Dunedin and Christchurch airports and later on we hope we might do a North Otago tour and do all of the things that will encourage people to stay.

''That will evolve with time, but initially, we're a bed and breakfast.''

-By Daniel Birchfield

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